Flerding Experiment

by Bob Kinford via Cow Herd Management Blog

The Circle Ranch has asked me to develop a multi species herd (called a flerd) out of some of the animals on the ranch.The plan is to create a flerd by combining horses, longhorn cattle, lamas, alpacas and BLM burros.

The burros have not been handled, so the hardest part will be getting them into the pens. Last Tuesday I managed to get them from the Middle Pasture into a trap next to headquarters. To accomplish this I opened the gate I wanted them to go through and rode to the back of the pasture. As soon as I spotted the burros I stopped and stood there until they started moving away from me, then dropped out of site.  There was a stud horse and two geldings at the gate when the burros reached it. When the stud made a short charge at the burros, I was far enough out that I loped in the same direction as the burros and managed to stop them. After nearly an hour of applying and releasing pressure a single step at a time, the burros left and the horses followed them through the gate. I continued acclimating them to seeing a person horseback for a couple of hours. When I decided they had enough for the day, I released them to walk down a fence. Unfortunately, when they reached the county road (and a cattle guard) the stud horse made another run at them, chasing them across the cattle guard, and following them into the next trap. I waited until things calmed down and removed the stud horse and his compadres to another pasture where they will be out of the way.

In the meantime, the rest of the flerd is beginning to shape up. There are peculiar challenges with this project, mainly with the alpacas and lamas. The males of these two species fight for dominance on a daily basis, which makes it difficult to combine groups of these species with each other, let alone other species. Interestingly enough, it seems that the neutered alpacas and lamas will still fight for dominance. To get around this I have removed the most aggressive males. They still fight, but the fights are a lot shorter.

In order to keep the stress levels as low as possible, I work these animals around a pen, or through several pens. Then I place the animals on feed in a separate pen. I cannot stress stress enough on how much stress is created by calling animals to feed. When we create the “Pavlov’s Dog” response in animals the more aggressive animals are always on feed first leaving those lower in the pecking order to fight over what is left. Cattle which are grazing as a herd and acting as a herd will begin eating then scattering out after being fed because of the stress. However, by placing stock on feed this extra stress is removed. As you will see in the video below, the varied species in this flerd are beginning to eat with each other in only six days. This is largely because they are being placed on feed rather than going through the stress of the horses driving the cattle off feed and the cattle driving off the lamas and alpacas.

Click on the link to see the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0UbFRB26qEA

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